Sunday, 22 May 2016

22nd of May: Monitoring

A whole range of monitoring goes on at Blakeney. This week on Blakeney Point, we have been monitoring moths, birds, nests and even fish.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Martin Perrow of ECON Ecological Consultancy conducted some fish research with us. Our aim is to look at Little Tern prey availability throughout the breeding season. Seine netting was carried out at low tide, rising tide, high tide and falling tide both in the surf zone near the Watch House and in the harbour by Pinchen's Creek. We found a far greater abundance of favoured Little Tern prey items - Herring, Sand-eel and Sprat - than were present last May. This is good news for the Little Terns, which should start nesting this week.

Some of our fish finds included: Lesser Weaver (dozens in the sea), Brown Shrimp (hundreds in the harbour), Sea Bass, Flounder, Plaice, Brill, Little Cuttlefish, Hermit Crab, Swimming Crab, Edible Crab, Shore Crab (dozens in the harbour), Smelt, Sand Smelt, Common Goby, Sand Goby, Snake Pipefish, ...
Greater Pipefish

Long-spined Sea Scorpion


 ... and even a Sea Trout!
(Photographs: Alex Long/ Ajay Tegala)

Migrant birds recorded this week included a male Cuckoo near the Lifeboat House as well as Dotterel, Little Stints, Spotted Flycatchers, Tree Pipits, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Swifts, House Martins, Wheatears and a Common Whitethroat. At dusk on Friday, a Barn Owl was seen over the dunes, although they nest nearby on Blakeney Freshes, it is very rare to see one on the Point itself.

We are currently monitoring a total of 121 nests on the Point as part of the BTO Nest Recording Scheme. These are mostly Oystercatcher and Meadow Pipit nests, but also Redshank, Ringed Plover, Black-headed Gull, Mallard, Linnet and a Reed Bunting. Our findings - number of eggs, number of chicks fledging etc. - feed into the national database monitoring breeding bird productivity. It involves finding nests and visiting them every four days to follow their progress. This week we have seen the first Meadow Pipit chicks.

On the Point, we often find unusual breeding bird behaviour. Whether it be Oystercatchers sharing nests, a Grey Partridge dumping eggs in a Gadwall nest or even Arctic Terns incubating a Little Tern egg. This year, a Black-headed Gull nest we are monitoring on Middle Point was taken over by an Oystercatcher. Our first visit recorded two gull eggs, but the second visit found one gull egg (below right) and one Oystercatcher egg (below left).
(Photograph: Wynona Legg)

We have put a trail camera on the nest to monitor what is happening; to find out if an Oystercatcher is indeed incubating both eggs and whether the Black-headed Gull is still present at all. There is always something new to learn about bird behaviour on Blakeney Point!

Our moth trap caught this splendid Marbled Coronet on Friday. These are a species we regularly catch out here.
(Photograph: Dan Wynn)

In seal news, our latest low tide count recorded 101 Grey and 83 Common Seals hauled out on the West Sands - on Thursday (19th).

Sea Campion - flowering now:
(Photograph: Ajay Tegala)
- Ajay, Coastal Ranger

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